Fishcakes

Even though I say it myself, I regard my culinary talents as adventurous, even challenging!

I only married in my 30’s, so had a fair bit of cooking experience in my bachelor days, despite living in Africa where cooks were often employed for most meals. Of course being an African male, I am an experienced vleis braaier, which is Afrikaans for ‘meat guerrilla’.

braai-vleisThe braaivleis, known as barbeque in many parts of the world, is a cultural practice which involves the cooking of piles of meat. The cooking often takes place after a few drinks and is not really that important; the meat just has to look cooked. It often does in the evening twilight, after a few beers…

But I am not here to talk about meat, of which, I have realised, I eat too much. Accordingly, I have resolved to give up meat for Lent in accordance with older traditions and instead of beer.

My wife is perturbed as I said that I would eat more fish, which she is not fond of. So I have set out to show her that there is no need to fear, by cooking some fishcakes as a surprise.

In order to ensure a special dish, I used my pilchards in chili sauce, which I had been saving pilchards-chilifor a treat. I combined it with some bread crumbs of the nutty, seedy bread she prefers. To make the mixture more special and because she doesn’t like raw onion, I used sliced pickled onion, which I thought was quite innovative. To add some colour, I added a couple of sliced pepperdews, small red capsicums in a sweet syrup. I mixed in an egg for binding, salt and pepper seasoning and some finely chopped parsley from the garden. Simple!

Please note, this was my own recipe!

The mixture made six and a half cakes, which I fried in olive oil. Even though I say it myself, they were delicious! (A couple fell apart, so I had to eat them for lunch).

To my consternation, my wife turned down the fishcakes without hesitation – she doesn’t like tuna, chili or my cooking, especially when I try different ingredients…

Looks like I’ll be cooking for myself for the 40 days of Lent.

P.S. I had a nibble of half a cake before I went to bed. I must confess I had a very weird dream about riding a brown ox which was chased by a lion past a lion reserve full of identical lions following each other, holding the tail of the foremost one in their mouths…

afrikaner-ox

If I was King of Australia

… I would decree that all homeowners would be required to have rainwater tanks, solar energy, groparsley sage.jpgw vegetables and fruit in their garden and keep chickens.

In this little garden, we have a few basic herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (I feel a song coming on)  as well as chives, lavender, garlic and turmeric.

We will soon have a sufficiency of lemons and the yellow guava tree has a score of fruit. I cut down my first paw-paws for not producing enough fruit, but one has re-sprouted and the sprout has two fruit. Hopefully, it will be a lesson for my two new-fangled, self-pollinating red papayas, which are really shooting up. Our fig tree should bear next summer and our solitary pineapple is nearing fruition.

Our raised-from-seed granadillas gave us a score of fruit in their first year; if we are lucky we will get a second harvest.

The chubby maroon cherry guava looks likguava-cherrye it’s perfect for harvest. Sadly, it’s too late – it is already over-ripe and will have a rotten, fermented fruit taste and smell and likely a number of lively fat grubs.

I have never seen such a bountiful crop. I munch one or two green-yellow skin ones which are at the safely edible stage of ripeness; I don’t see any worms, but then I don’t look.

The rainbow lorikeets add their greens, reds and yellows to the tree and at night the flying foxes squabble over them. I bet they can smell the fruit from a mile away.

I think of my grandmother, who we called Gogo (pr: gawkaw) in the Swazi way. She would boil them up and strain them through muslin to make guava jelly – the perfect accompaniment for the impala roasts of the winter to come. We got to lick the wooden spoon and the bowl.

Now that I have become old and fat, I have become an anti-sugar Nazi, so can’t make the jelly which requires pounds of the sweet poison. But it saddens me. I am happy when my friend Grant comes and noshes a few of the fruit, recalling his childhood too.

tamarillosWould you like some tree tomatoes! Called tamarillos here, they are bountiful on my tree and I can’t eat them all. Flying foxes and possums find their smooth waxy skin too difficult, so I have to dispose of the whole crop. Lots of giveaways, to protect me from gout, caused by too much tomato. (Definitely not beer!). What will I do when the second tree comes into fruit? – I may have to go commercial!

Our bountiful garden gives me great joy. A hydroponic system is under consideration but may be too finicky; chickens have been vetoed. I am not yet King of Australia.

Nevertheless, go forth and cultivate!

What makes me happy?

jumping-for-joy

The casual affection of a grandchild

The crooning of our puppy

Picking fruit from my fruit trees

My wife’s smile

The chatter of family at a braaivleis cold-beer

Songs that snare memories

The colours of new leaves … old leaves … most leaves

Condensation on a glass of cold beer

Chewing biltong

The call of the Piet-my-vrou

take-a-smile

 

What am I grateful for today?

The just enough breezebee-happy

The blossom bending under a bee’s knees

Our solitary pineapple

Doves cooing

The yellow green of leaves on the unidentified trees against the ever so slightly faded blue sky

The droop of the fuchsia

That I am far away enough not to smell the rotting fruit of the cherry guava tree.

The relative silence of obscure suburbia.

The pelargonium red that almost pierces my eye

The fat smile of the Buddha my son gave me

 

There are more – these are some I perceive from where I sit on my verandah at home.

choose-happy

The numbness of numbers

probability found-wanting
There is a view that:

  • If it can’t be measured it doesn’t exist
  • Reality is a number

 

Some people (mostly rich) believe numbers tell you all you need to know.

Well, the buck stops here, with me!eat-your-pheasant

I reject the tyranny of numbers. I reject their posture as the only truth and sole ownership of reality.

Numbers don’t count when you talk about the real things in life:

  • Do you know how much I love you?number-on-scale
  • How hungry are you?
  • Are we happy enough?

 

Numbers are man-made symbols and thus controllable, changeable and malleable; they are powerful propaganda and eminently susceptible to corruption. Despite this, they are used to predict the future and define the past.

Numbers dominate our lives and rule what, when, where and how we live: the budget, the speed limit, age, school grades, wage levels, taxes, social benefits, account numbers, pin numbers, street numbers, profit and loss…

The problem is that numberspeople extend number logic to dealing with people, but people never add up.

They look elsewhere and jump on different horses that pass by; they get bored and seek variety. The main thing about people is that they are wired to take shortcuts. Even though most shortcuts end up in thorn patches and the way back seems different… so they take time (another domineering number) to get home.

But getting lost is an adventure with new experiences, trials and people – horizons are broadened; America could be discovered – ask Columbus!

Do everyday people really need to know how many miles it is to too-many-numbersPluto? Or how long it would take to get there?

Can we not survive on:

  • very far (the number of miles to Pluto)
  • quite a while (how long it will take to get there)
  • more than I can imagine or more and more each day (that’s how much I love you)

 

Let us practice the avoidance of numbers:

  • describe goals and ideals without recourse to numbers;
  • use words that are meaningful and emotive, passionate and powerful
  • break away from the sterility and bondage of exactness!

So try a little absence of exactitude, bask in a bit of vagueness.

We can dream, can’t we?  you-are-beautiful

 

Collecting mushrooms

Imushrooms-in-the-fieldn early summer, after the first rains, Mum used to take us out to look for mushrooms.
Us being my brother Tim and Bessie our bull terrier nanny. We used to go to the Mbabane Oval, which was a grass expanse in front of the Club. Sometimes we were  looking for the foot of the rainbow to find the pot of gold… but found mushrooms instead.

All mushrooms are not the same, she taught us. The best ones are the small white mushrooms with pink-brown gills. As they grow older, their bonnets open and the gills go dark brown. Mushrooms in sauce on toast … my mouth waters even now!

But, there is a dangerous mushroom that usually grows under trees, which looks similar but has white gills. Beware, that one is deadly poisonous. So are dubiousthe pink-spots-shroompink ones with white spots and the long tall ones and most of the little forest fungi.

In those days, mushrooms were mushrooms; we hadn’t heard of fancy ones like shiitake, fonterels, chanterelles and morels. I guess they would have seriously confused our clear identification of dangerous ones!

We were quite taken aback when our big brother, who was a tree enumerator (before he was a policeman), arrived back from the forests with a sackful of the ugliest toadstools one can imagine.Oesterreich Pilzgebuehr The Swazi name for them was makowe. With great trepidation we tried some, after we had seen him eat two plates full and not die. De-wonderfully-luscious!!

However, that really messed up our simple means of identifying edible fodder: some look like the common and garden button mushrooms but are dangerous, some look like  huge frog-kin but are delicious!
amethyst-deceiver

I suppose that is how we should treat people. Just because they are
different, doesn’t mean they are poisonous and some that look the same are very poisonous!

Find out before you trust a mushroom and beware of strange ones!

 

Kith and Kin

My mind has been turning to love of those dear to me, prompted by the sad news that my brother in law is stricken with leukemia and the good news of an impending visit by my son and our newest daughter in law.

Thinking about it, families keep growing: brothers, sisters and children marry and bring husbands and wives … and if you’re lucky, nephews and nieces and grandchildren.

Even though husband and wife lose that status with divorce, father and mother do not. Brothers and sisters in law do not cease to be brothers and sisters on divorpooh-friendce or remarriage or death.

The in-laws are kin but their families are kith.

Friends are kith even though some are closer than kin.

 

My son who is a soldier is about to embark on an operational posting and I have been beseeching Blessed Michael the Archangel to watch over him, as he did in Afghanistan.

I mull over what sage words I could say to him, but have realised :pooh-advice

  • ·         One can give sage words only if asked
  • ·         Those words should be good for all
  • ·          Pooh says most things better than I do.

 

 

pooh-and-piglet

 

Piglet: “How do you spell ‘love’?”

Pooh: “You don’t spell it…you feel it.”

 

The one that frequently consoles me is:

“If the person you are talking to does not appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in this ear.”

eeyore-fluff-in-ear

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

robertmpirsig_zenandtheartofmotorcyclemaintenance Recently I have been engrossed by this Inquiry into values by Robert Pirsig. It was a classic of the new free thinking era of the 70’s; however I avoided reading it (and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). I suppose I felt they were a wee bit kitsch.

I was wrong – this is a fascinating book of some depths, which I recommend.

 

It discloses a very real look into both sides of a very bright schizophrenic’s mind and his descent into insanity, which was treated by shock therapy.

Be warned, it takes some discipline to complete it.buddha-or-godhead

Parallels with eastern philosophies are drawn which are enlightening.

The discussion is sometimes quite complex, but somehow the main points are well illustrated.

The balances between science and art, yin and yang and the overarching of quality or excellence, which is the source of all endeavour, are persuasive.

 

I founpirsigs-heart-2d a great deal of support for my thoughts on spiritual direction, differences between sexes, xenophobia  and beauty.

There is an intriguing relationship with his young son which has a strange twist, near the end.

I must now read the Hitchhikers’ Guide .

 

Just another tequila sunrise

nasturtium-hybrid-colour

There must be a price to pay for a balmy spring, tequila sunrises, arrays of visiting parrots  and the clear, bright colours of the nasturtiums in our garden. I can’t get enough of the scenes, sounds and scents of this Spring.

Maybe my sense of awe is exacerbated by the banality of the national news. Last night we were treated to some variety  from the usual house fire, convenience store robbery and road crash,  – a story on the condition of city roads, which required 86 000 potholes to be fixed last year!

Spice is also provided on occasion with the mandatory attempts at courthouses to get a response from head shaven, tattooed bikies … are you sorry for what you did?zenasturtiums

I suppose it is a reasonable counter to the 20 odd years sprinkled with bombs and bodies before I left Africa

This sort of karma thinking is unsettling. How can life be so good for me when there are people being washed away in South Australia, blown away in Syria and unable to get any money to buy necessities in Zimbabwe.

Ice cream anyone? I’m afraid there’s only vanilla…

Please let there be no payback – I’ve been a good boy, really!

Let us give thanks and praise.

How banal … how banal!

Banal – what an apt word! Such an apposite description

banal-twitterof our media in this day and age.

It is sadly neglected and under-utilised.  I feel absloutely awesome (ugh!) that I have remembered the word .

It is a strange word which I shunned in my younger days as it made me feel queasy somehow. Probably because of the -anal sound. But in fact its not ‘bay nal’,- it is pronounced ‘buh narl’, much more reflective and condemnatory sounding.

Synonyms are: bland, corny, dumb, hackneyed, mundane, stupid, trite, vapid, blah, bromidic, clichéd, cornball, cornfed, dull as dishwater, everyday, flat, ho-hum, hokey, insipid, noplace, nothing, nowhere, old hat, pabulum, pedestrian, platitudinous, square, stale, stereotyped,yawn stock, tired, tripe, unimaginative, unoriginal, watery, wishy washy, zero

What a glorious all encompassing word!
My mother used ‘common’ quite often, which sounded and was snobbish. Despite the frequent temptation, it would not be acceptable in Australia to use such a term, as there is a perverse pride in the humble and often delinquent origins, predominantly working class and frequently criminal, expelled from or fleeing the then First World.

But back to buh narl. I must admit that it is going to make me appreciate the news so much more now that I can keep the reports in context. I can also forgive Adele for her banal apology for breaking someone’s heart – I mean if you do such a terrible thing, the word ‘apologise’ is likely to drive the poor wounded person into a manic rage! Oh I say, I must apologise: I don’t love you any more, I have found someone else – dashed awkward, what!

 What a pleasing and quintessentially bon mot!

 

Fisherman’s Fancies

surf-fishing

Let me be the first to say that I am not a catcher of many fish, but I have caught fish in many places including:catch-fish

  • the mighty Zambezi River (where I hooked a hippo);
  • Lake Kariba, with its spoon flinging tigers and tasty bream;
  • the Okavango river – big 2 spot bream and tiger there;
  • Henties Baai in Namibia where I caught a 6kg steenbras
  • Kosi Bay where I caught zilch, twice
  • Coffee Bay where we ate the bait (squid)
  • Tofu, Mocambique for barracuda and an amazing display of big sea fish like black marlin, sailfish and whaleshark
  • A dorado from a boat off Umhlanga Rocks
  • Blue cod off Oamaru in New Zealand
  • Trout in the NZ high country lakes
  • A 50kg guitarfish in Moreton Bay, Queensland

Not to forget a few barbel and bluegills in Swaziland waters.tailor

Well I am about to broaden my horizon and maybe my bragging rights – on Sunday I leave for Fraser Island. The tailor (Australian for shad) run up the coast to spawn there and it is apparently good fishing.

The only problem will be if you have to be good to catch fish…!

Don’t hold your breath.dingo

My wife has unselfishly declined to come, as have the 3 other wives of our party, so we will bravely cook for ourselves.

Excitement bubbles have been controlled by repeated fishing tackle inspections and casting practices.

We are easily moved!!